ump back ten years and I was studying computing at college. One day I was reading Trail magazine and there was an article on a guy who was dominating the Elite category in the OMM (or KIMM as it was then). The man in question so happened to be my lecturer and when I chatted to him about the article who told me about all his fell running exploits and how amazing mountain marathons were. It sounded amazing and something I really fancied, but in them days the furthest I ran was to the bar when last orders were called. Fast forward to 2009 and I was looking for a new challenge. I had done the road running stuff; marathons, half marathons etc. but wanted something different. It was then I came across the LAMM 2009 Kintail. A mountain marathon held in Scotland. I remembered the lecturer and how the conversation we had ten years back. How about getting involved in this? Unfortunately, I could get no one to run with me (you need a team of two). Eventually, I mentioned this to Scott, a good mate of mine who I met in Bolton in 1994 and he was keen. We had one training run together, bought all the mandatory kit and we were ready for action (or so we thought).
I had never been further west than Spean Bridge so I was really looking forward to getting to Kintail. The area looked amazing, especially the Five Sisters and the South Glen Shiel Ridge. By 7pm we were parked up and had set up our tent. Our naivety was pretty evident from the start as we promptly disposed of the plastic foot shaped bags you are given to keep your feet dry at mid camp.
What the hell are these useless things for? Just chuck ‘em in the bin. We don’t need them!
We milled around the event centre tent for a while. There was definitely a great buzz about the place. Far more than anything I had experienced at other races, where you turn up 30 minutes before the start and then set off running. The sun was beginning to sink to the west and so we retired to our tent, chatted for a while then called it a night and got some sleep.
Saturday – Position: 22/116, Time: 05:51:50
We were up and early and walked to our assembly point where a coach awaited. We jumped on board and set off down the A87 towards Invergarry. After a short journey, the coach pulled in opposite the Cluanie Inn. We disembarked, dibbed in and we were off.
The first checkpoint was located on the edge of a patch of forest land sandwiched between the Allt a’ Chaorainn and the Allt a’ Chaorainn Mhoir. This should not be too difficult. In fact, you could see people in the distance heading up to the forest. We ran up the path and then cut straight across the hillside towards the checkpoint. We had only been running for two minutes and our feet were soaked. Now I know what those bags were for! We arrived at the checkpoint and dibbed in. Our approach was to take each checkpoint one at a time and do the navigation for the next checkpoint once we had dibbed in.
Checkpoint Two was located on a stream bend that descended into the Allt Cam-ban. To get there we would have to ascend up the Allt a’ Chaorainn to the Bealach a’ Choinnich then drop into the coire and locate the stream. We made good progress, following the Allt and overtook a couple of teams on the way up. At the bealach, we descended steeply and located the stream. A quick 150 metres uphill and we had dibbed in at checkpoint Two.
From here we dropped down and headed towards Checkpoint three which was located on a stream bend about 4km to the west. All previous notions of running on fast trails we are but dashed as we negotiated tussocks and bogs. Our navigation had been spot on though and we dibbed in with 2 hours 17 minutes down.
Checkpoint Four was located on a 910 metre peak to the north-west. We were only at about 300 metres above sea level so it was a far slog to the top. We seemed to be making good progress however, we were moving steadily and picking off teams in front of us.
The views were great from the top of the peak and it was a shame we were not able to get up onto the Munro, Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan, which was located just to the north. Checkpoint Five was on the edge of one of three lochans located. We probably dropped to low into the Gleann Gaorsaic which meant the terrain was really wet and progress slow but from a navigation point of view, we had took a great line and hit the checkpoint spot on.
Just one more checkpoint to go now. Checkpoint Six was located at a stream near the midway camp. It was simply a case of descending rapidly off the north-west shoulder of Meall Sguman. We ran down as fast as we could and dibbed in. From here, it was a fast run downhill to the finish at midcamp near the Loch na Leitreach. We finished in a time of 5 hours, 51 minutes and 50 seconds. Not bad for our first attempt.
There was not that many tents around so we had a good pick of the field. Once the tents were up (we took a tent each for this mountain marathon) we got some food on. Small problem – no fork or spoon. They were still in the car back at the event centre. A little improvisation with a ‘mug shot’ packet and we managed to eat our meal. As the scores were gradually being updated we were holding top twenty and when the final list was put up, we had finished twenty second and more importantly, made the chasing start the following day.
Sunday – Position: 12/116, Time: 04:07:18
We were up in plenty of time and with blue skies and sun, it had the potential for a great day. We joined the queue in the chasing start funnel and awaited our time to set off. There was four teams within ten minutes of us so the plan was to run as fast as we could and maybe overtake these. We moved to the front, it was out turn next. The woman counted down, we were off!
The first checkpoint was located just to the north off the top of Meall an Odhar. This was a decent climb and we could see the snake of people heading upwards. We hiked up as fast as we could and located the checkpoint without too much difficulty. We had overtaken a couple of teams but none of the teams from the chasing start in front of us. Time to push on! Checkpoint Two was located just down the Allt an Leoid Ghaineamhaich where it flows out of a lochan located near Meall Dubh. We hammered it across the terrain and took a great line, coming out just above the checkpoint (This was our best leg of the weekend, we ranked 2nd for this leg). We had made great time and in front of us, having just dibbed in, was team 21.
Checkpoint Three was located on the shoulder of Beinn Bhreac. It was here we made our first mistake of the day. In our haste to get away from the checkpoint and overtake team 21, we took an incorrect line and navigated to the wrong checkpoint. We had inadvertently gone to a checkpoint on another class. Fortunately we had not gone to badly wrong and realised our mistake but we had lost valuable time and team 21 were back ahead of us.
Having realised our mistake, we pelted across the Bealach na Sroine and eventually caught up with team 21 just near the shoulder of Beinn Bhreac. Once on the shoulder, we spent a little time looking for the checkpoint before we realised we were a little low and then headed higher to locate it.
Checkpoint Four was located just across the ridge on the edge of a small lochan. This looked pretty straight-forward but with a number of lochan’s on the ridge it was a little confusing. A number of other teams were having difficulties but we managed to find the checkpoint without losing to much time and we team 21 were no longer in sight.
Checkpoint Five was located directly on the col between Beinn Bhuide and Sgurr an Airgid. We had two options, either go straight over the top of Beinn Bhuide or contour around the side. Team 19 was directly in front of us and they had taken the contour option so we followed. In hindsight, we should have just ran over the top but the logic at the time was to follow closely to team 19 then drop them at the earliest opportunity. We followed behind them to the annoyance of one of the team members who was constantly looking behind and cursing. When they dropped down a little low we stayed high and pushed past them. By the time we arrived at the checkpoint, we had built up a couple of hundred metres lead on them but our decision to contour around the side had lost us some time because team 21 had sneaked back in front of us.
Checkpoint Six was located on a fence line about three hundred metres downhill. It was a straight race between us and team 21. The path zig-zagged down but Scott was running like a man possessed and just running straight down the hill! I followed as quick as I could, the burning in my quads was unbelievable, but managed to hang in behind him and by the time we reached the checkpoint, we were in front of team 21. Great stuff, we should be home and dry now.
Checkpoint Seven was located on a fence at a junction on the road back to the event centre. To this day, I am not sure how we missed this checkpoint but in our eagerness to keep in front of team 21, we ran straight past it. The only saving grace was that they must have been following us and were not paying attention because they also ran straight past it. We must have ran nearly a kilometre before realised our mistake. Nightmare! We turned around and ran back. There was no way I was going to let team 21 back in front and we managed to dib in before them. (We ranked 86th for that leg compared to the rest of the checkpoints that had been top twenty with three top tens!)
It was a straight race to the finish and I think team 21 must have backed off because by the time we crossed the line they were nowhere to be seen. I was still gutted about the mistake on Checkpoint Seven and this was compounded when the guy from team 19 who had been annoyed with us for following him around Beinn Bhuide was stood there with a big smug grin on his face.
Finish – Position: 17/116, Time: 09:59:08
We had still performed well though, finishing twelfth on day two giving us a position overall of seventeenth. Not bad for our first mountain marathon. 🙂
|Checkpoint||Leg Rank||Leg Time||Cumulative Time|
|7 – Finish||22||00:03:31||05:51:50|
|Checkpoint||Leg Rank||Leg Time||Cumulative Time|
|8 – Finish||13||00:04:33||04:07:18|